The Question Every Curious Person Should Ask

By ‘curious’ I mean really curious. You think learning something is its own reward. If you could be a student for the rest of your life, you would. That kind of curious.

You’re interested in so many things, you’ve had a hard time choosing a major or particular career path. The advice “follow your interests” points in too many directions. In fact, “follow your passion” isn’t helpful because your passion is to explore the many things that fascinate you.

Faced with this problem, it’s natural to ask yourself: “What am I interested in the most?”

Good luck. Because you can’t answer that question without a deeper dive into the subjects you’re curious about. Navel-gazing can only take you so far before you need more experience, which isn’t an option unless you can linger at BU an extra, oh, four or five years.

Instead, try this. Set aside things you want to learn about and identify instead things you like to do.

Call this the difference between your intellectual interests and your activity interests. Because it’s the latter – your activity interests – that better suggests a career direction.

Now, admittedly, if what you like to do is to learn, then in this case your activity interests lead straight to your intellectual interests, and you’re back where you started. But press on, and ask yourself: “What else do I like to do?”

Some curious people also like to create beauty. Or help others. Or make useful things. Or argue, or teach, or write, or lead. And beware: those who love to learn don’t always like doing the long, painstaking, often isolated research it takes to discover. So think it over before penciling in that PhD program for the next six (or eight or ten) years.

After you identify an activity interest, you can start looking into careers that align with it and that require continual learning (e.g., law, education, technology). For each career, you can work back to a major or two that fits well with it. Or vice-versa: if an activity interest points to a major, look into how that could lead into a related career with continual learning.

So, curious people, give that a try and let me know if it helps. Because I’m curious to know.

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